Fenway Cultural District is Up for Renewal

By Beth Treffeisen

Seen today as a cultural hub of the City, the Fenway neighborhood is now up for a renewal to keep the current designation as a Cultural District.

At the March 29, Boston City Council meeting, Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Josh Zakim, Tito Jackson and Michelle Wu filed a hearing order to review the Fenway Cultural District’s reapplication to maintain its current designation.

“The Fenway Cultural District has seen tremendous success in Boston,” said Wu. “It really has been a landmark and history making district in so many ways and is up for renewal after their five years.”

The Fenway was officially designated the Fenway Cultural District on March 24, 2012. It was one of the first state-designated cultural districts by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

This happened after a yearlong process that included support from the Boston City Council and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Film, Tourism and Special Events.

After its establishment, the Fenway Cultural District has been one of the primary hubs for arts and culture in the City of Boston.

Acclaimed cultural attractions include the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Symphony Hall, Berklee College of Music, and New England Conservatory and more.

In order to maintain this designation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council requires all cultural districts to submit a reapplication every five years and to hold at least one community input meeting.

“This affords us the opportunity to do a quick look back on the reauthorization and to celebrate the wonderful things that have happened to this district over the last five years,” said Pressley.

The Fenway Alliance who manages the Cultural District reported that the Fenway institutions brings over four million visitors to the Fenway Cultural District each year. In addition they employ over 20,000 people and educate more than 60,000 students.

This Cultural District, Pressley said, has acted as catalyst for the City to be able to successfully preserve institutions such as the Huntington Theatre, which was slated to close last year.

In addition this allowed Fenway Alliance to partner with Medicine Wheel Productions to bring over two temporary works of art from Ireland to display on the Muddy River this past summer.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg on what they’ve been able to accomplish over the past five years,” said Pressley. “I look forward to seeing more.”

In July 2010, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed legislation establishing state-designated cultural districts in cities and towns throughout the state.

The purpose of the Cultural District program is to recognize, foster, and develop cultural districts which are geographical locations within a city or town that have concentrations of cultural facilities, activities, and assets.

“It has been a huge positive impact for both residents and visitors alike,” said Zakim. “People from inside and outside of Boston come in here and have helped contribute to our thriving community.”

The order was assigned to the Planning & Development Committee for a hearing. The date of the hearing is yet to be set.

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